Thursday, May 2, 2013

Health Food Imposter #11: Smoothies

Are smoothies health food imposters?  Copyright 2013 - Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, RD, CSSD - Go Wellness

Health Food Imposter #11:   Smoothies
Who isn't a fan of the almighty smoothie, right?  While I think that smoothies can have a place in a nourishing, well-balanced diet, some (especially homemade ones) are better than others when it comes to many commercially-prepared versions.  
  • One of the drawbacks of commercially-prepared smoothies is that the bases often include non-fat yogurt, frozen yogurt, and sherbet, which are typically laden with refined sugar.  For example, the Original-sized Banana Berry Smoothie from Jamba Juice, which is made with bananas, non-fat frozen yogurt, blueberries, raspberry sherbet and ice, contains 82 grams of sugar.  Yes, 82 grams or almost 21 teaspoons.  Yes, some of it is naturally-occurring from the fruit and frozen yogurt, but how much?  
  • Someone thinking these are a healthy “snack” may also be surprised that some of these smoothies can range anywhere from 150 up to 900+ calories. Yes, I said 900 calories!  As a "snack", that could pose a problem for a person trying to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.  
  • There are “no sugar added” and “light” versions, but keep in mind that this is usually due to the use of artificial sweeteners, like sucralose.  
  • While “real fruit smoothies” seem to be a trend right now, keep in mind that sometimes the “real fruit” comes in the form of fruit juice rather than whole fruit, so you could be losing out on valuable nutrients, like fiber.  In some cases, I’ve seen so-called fruit smoothies that don’t have any real fruit in them at all.  Buyer beware!
  • Know, too, that  commercially-prepped smoothies may also contain artificial colors, flavors, and other  questionable additives as well.
What is a better alternative?  
Make your own smoothies at home using fresh or frozen, unsweetened whole fruits and vegetables at home.  This way you’ll have more control over the quality, kind, and amount of the ingredients you put into them. Plus, you can personalize them to your own taste.  If you opt for a commercially-prepared version, look for the nutrition information online or onsite to review the nutrition facts as well as the ingredients, when available.  Opt for those made with real, whole fruits and veggies as often as possible.  You may also want to opt for a smoothie with a quality source of protein (at least as best as you can do with commercially-prepared versions), like almond butter or yogurt, to help with blood sugar balance and satiety.  Also, consider choosing smaller sizes for better portion control.  If anything ask questions and see if you can customize your smoothie to suit your needs and tastes.

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